By Paul Post
The reinvention of Clifton Park Center, with exterior storefronts providing direct easy access, kept it thriving while many malls across America dwindled in the face of stiff competition from online shopping platforms.
The 630,000-square-foot property continued to flourish despite major challenges such as the Great Recession of 2008 and the more recent COVID-19 pandemic.
But after achieving its goals there, Clifton Park-based DCG Development recently passed the torch to a new owner—Albany-based CPC Development I, LLC, for a reported $55 million.
“DCG did extraordinary work transforming the former Clifton Country Mall into the town center that it is today,” said Faraz Khan, CPC principal, who purchased the site with an investment group of family and close friends. “We hope to continue DCG owner Don Greene’s vision and legacy by further the developing the property in years to come. We appreciate the opportunity to continue as stewards of this very important community asset.”
The commercial real estate location analytics company, Placer.ai, said Clifton Park Center hosts nearly five million visitors per year.
The deal was brokered by RedMark Realty of Clifton Park.
“While internet shopping has certainly impacted retail over the past several decades, the primary reason that regional malls have been struggling is really due to a change in shopping patterns,” said Alex Kutikov, RedMark principal. “Instead of just going to the mall and roaming around, shoppers know exactly which stores they want to visit and prefer the convenience of pulling right up to their destination. Retailers understand their customers and have altered their prototypes to have exterior entrances directly from the parking lots.”
“The nationwide trend has become to ‘de-mall’ indoor shopping centers and convert them to open-air, outdoor lifestyle centers with a mix of fashion, restaurant and other retail or power centers anchored by big box and junior anchors,” he said.
Other Capital Region retail centers such as Northway Commons in Colonie (Target, Lowe’s, BJ’s), Mohawk Commons in Niskayuna (Target, Lowe’s, Market 32) and Shoppes at Latham Circle (Super Wal-Mart, Lowe’s) also succeeded by pursuing a similar business strategy.
However, Clifton Park Center’s convenient location just off Northway Exit 9 in southern Saratoga County gives it a distinct advantage over other sites. Ninety-six percent of the center’s space is currently occupied.
Several other highly popular firms such as Bass Pro Shops, Trader Joe’s and Chick-Fil-A have either opened or plan to locate in Clifton Park as well, making it even more of a destination for shoppers within the immediate Capital Region and beyond.
The 1976 opening of Clifton Country Mall, developed by Myron Hunt of Buffalo, ushered in a whole new era that transformed Exit 9 into a retail shopper’s paradise. Before long, Shopper’s World anchored by Price Chopper and Village Plaza anchored by a Hannaford Brothers supermarket, opened nearby.
But only 20 years later, Clifton Country Mall had taken a financial nosedive, even earning a place on the “Dead Malls of America” list.
However, Greene saw opportunity there and DCG acquired the mall from GE Capital in 2006. In addition to physical changes, DCG succeeded in bringing a diverse group of hospitality, entertainment and recreational tenants to the site, which made it more appealing to a broader customer base.
“Southern Saratoga County continues to be among the fastest growing areas in upstate New York and Clifton Park Center has prospered by offering that increasing population the goods and services they desire in a more convenient venue,” DCG Vice President Donald MacElroy said.
The center’s anchors now include such well-known names as JC Penney, Marshalls & HomeGoods, Boscov’s, Regal Cinemas, Planet Fitness and Sky Zone Trampoline Park. Fashion tenants include Loft, Maurices, Lane Bryant and Shoe Department, and visitors may also choose from restaurants such as Olive Garden, Chipotle, Starbucks and Buffalo Wild Wings.
The center’s success has also been a driving force in promoting other types of local economic development in the healthcare, hospitality and retail sectors.
“De-malling is an extremely pricy investment for landlord and some malls lend themselves easier to the conversion than others,” Kutikov said. “The ones that have undertaken the conversion have all been highly successful with minimal vacancy.”
Khan, a graduate of the GE leadership program, has an extensive background in real estate and finance. CPC’s various other holdings include multi-family, mixed use and industrial properties. At one point his portfolio featured more than 600 residential units.
But two years ago he sold Price Chopper-anchored Colonie Plaza for $20.8 million, Hinckel Brewery Apartments at 201 Park Ave. in Albany for $4.4 million, and 50 more units, with an eye toward purchasing Clifton Park Center.
Khan reportedly wants to brighten up the property with renovations including a children’s play area. Plans also call for a new four-story, mixed-use building called Park Tower near one of the mall’s entry points, with commercial tenants below and apartments above.
“Clifton Park has all the ingredients for retailers: location, accessibility, infrastructure, population demographics, income levels, employment and proof of concept with all the existing retail,” Kutikov said. “To a retailer that translates to a predictability of high sales projections. We have now opened the door to a whole new class of regional tenants.”
Financing of the Clifton Park Center sale was structured and arranged by Axiom Capital Corp. of Clifton Park. The lead lender was Rhinebeck Bank, with participation from Union Savings Bank, First National Bank of Scotia, Glens Falls National Bank, National Bank of Coxsackie and Catskill Hudson Bank.